The Odd, Little Happy

Finally I dance with confidence to songs

California Infant Dies after 8 Vaccines? Needles in Needles, CA.

Posted by theBarefoot on March 1, 2015


Today, let’s discuss one of the latest Facebook memes currently being spread by a particular subset of the site’s membership. The headline is California Infant Dies after 8 Vaccines, Family Gets Him Back from Hospital Cremated” and it’s attributed to a site called VacTruth.com (among others). You are more than encouraged to read the full article linked above. I’ll wait because I’m about to pick it apart and tell you why this is the largest load of horse manure you’ve seen since Biff ran into that truck in Back to the Future.

needleI’ll summarize for those in a hurry. It tells the tale of the Downing-Powers family of Needles, California whose 5.5 month-old son, Michael, died after being given too many vaccines. It seems he was taken late for his 4-month check-up, but too early for his 6-month, so the doctor decided to give him both sets of vaccinations in one sitting. Michael died, his body was cremated at the hospital, and the family was never given the coroner’s report as to the cause of death.

So why does this heartbreaking story deserve space on this blog? Because it’s pure, grade-A, fresh-from-the-field bullshit.

What is True?
Every good lie needs a coating of truth to make palatable. There is a White Pages entry for Downing-Powers on Elm Street in Needles, CA. The Colorado River Medical Center is indeed just a couple of blocks away. Those are the only two facts from the entire article I could verify.

Google Goggle
Google search results bring back only an incestuous circle-jerk of anti-vax and conspiracy sites all citing each other in a dubious round-robin of non-credible, slanted sources. The only non-anti-vax hits in the results are gullible, Facebook postings and dangerous, fund-raising campaigns.

In a Land Far, Far Away
There is no mention of the event in the local news. Searching the Mohave Valley Daily News site yields zero results. Where is the local media? If this story was about a coroner’s office stonewalling grieving parents, wouldn’t the first place they turned be the local media? However, if this is a concocted story meant to support anti-vax claims, why involve the locals? A local investigation would only torpedo the so-called facts. The lack of a local source for the story is glaring.

Follow the Money
There is more than one online fund-raising campaign for the family though they never appear to have asked for any money. The administration of these campaigns aren’t local to the Needles, CA area, either. One is based as far away as Virginia. I’m skeptical that any money donated will ever reach the Downing-Powers family.

While we’re on the money trail, where is the law suit? In a country were we sue dry cleaners for damaged pants, an egregious act such as this should have lawyers salivating to take the case. There is no mention of any legal action against the doctor, the hospital, or the coroner.

A Mother’s Plea
The section of the article claiming to be in the mother’s own words sounds nothing like a grieving parent. It is, however, sprinkled with cues and code words that are the hallmarks of anti-vax sites around the net.

For example, “After the shots, he didn’t have a fever or a low grade one.” Regardless of the awkward grammar, “low-grade fever” is often used by anti-vaxxers as proof that vaccines are not harmless.

“I started blaming my self and still do because I never took the time…” This is a typical reaction by parents when their child dies. It is also a carefully constructed sentence designed to appeal to parental guilt for having needles jabbed into their baby’s arm. It stands out as an obvious ploy to get fence-sitters to come down on the side of anti-vaccination.

“I went the doctor’s office recently and found out the nurse that injected Matthew is no longer working there. I was told she got fired because she didn’t know what she was doing when giving vaccines.” Wow! That doctor’s staff just violated about a dozen HIPAA and employment laws. Who in their right mind would tell a client such specific information about an employee’s firing, especially when it could be used to fuel an explosive, in not class-action, law suit? Besides, it’s not the nurse who decides what vaccines to give. The nurse only executes the injection authorized by the doctor. “She didn’t know what she was doing” only tells us she didn’t know how to perform an injection, something taught in year one of nursing school, and something even I have become quite adept at after assisting my wife with her home-health needs.

Much of the mother’s account is taken up with her exasperation over not getting the autopsy results. By law, coroner’s reports in California are public records. If the report exists (see #2, below), it is a simple thing to write, fax, or personally request these public records. The multiple, frustrated attempts to obtain the report make no sense unless we are being lead to believe there is a cover-up. (Spoiler alert: That’s exactly what we’re being lead to believe.) The article title already planted the seeds of conspiracy with “Family Gets Him Back from Hospital Cremated.”

The final paragraphs, still written as if they are a plea from a grieving mother, switch gears too abruptly. They begin by urging people to fight pending state legislation and end with this clear, anti-vaxxer appeal “Why do mild cases involving the measles get reported all over the news, but not babies dying after getting the MMR shot or other vaccinations?” First, measles is not a mild disease. It kills 2.6 million people, mostly children, every year. It blinds, deafens, and cripples millions more. Second, the news doesn’t report death from vaccines because it rarely happens and they’re just not looking for it. Someone needs to bring it to their attention and, in this case, no one has. This poor woman has just indicted herself in the complacent cover-up of the silent vaccine killer conspiracy.

Other Red Flags

  1. No doctor would combine 4 and 6-month vaccines. That would be medical malpractice and no doctor would expose their business to being bankrupted by a law suit for such a blatantly illegal procedure.
  2. The infant’s death supposedly took place in October 2013. Sixteen months is a long time to wait before going public. It’s also just long enough for the coroner’s autopsy report to be archived off-line and not available on the San Bernardino Sheriff’s website.
  3. The article is laced with bad grammar and forced-fed with anti-vax slogans. Even the mother’s signature is wonky. “Love Your Momma, [line break] Crystal Downing-Powers.” That is an imperative statement, not a closing of a letter. It should rightly be, “Love, [line break] Your Momma, Crystal Downing-Powers.” Still, what mother uses her full name when addressing a child?
  4. This gem that is in no way something a grieving mother would say: “It is beyond disturbing that bought politicians think they can choose what gets injected into our children. They don’t care about your child’s health. Clearly many are dying and getting injured from these vaccines and they turn a blind eye.” County and State health concerns are usually based on scientific research and reviewed by doctors hired to do due diligence when recommending statewide vaccine and other medical guidelines. They certainly do care about health and are apolitical in their recommendations. Also, many are not dying or being injured from vaccines. The vast majority of vaccinated people lead healthy, happy lives free from the worry of catching a deadly disease.
  5. “There are a lot more parents out there like me. Some don’t come forward due to [sic] fact they are afraid of what people would say. Sometimes people can be really cruel and not understand what parents like me go through.” Besides that grammatically reading like a caveman grunted it out, it is clearly designed to throw down the conspiracy gauntlet. We are supposed to believe there is a vast sea of dead and injured children in America whose deaths are being covered up by Big Pharma. The same Big Pharma that profits less than a dollar per vaccination. Furthermore, we are to believe in this conspiracy because websites selling us homeopathic snake oils, gluten-free water substitutes, and Jenny McCarthy tee-shirts are telling use it’s all about the money. Well, that much I believe. Groucho Marx
  6. This shining star, off-set as its own paragraph in the middle of recounting the encounter with the doctor’s office, “I want to tell other parents, they say vaccinations are safe, but in reality, they aren’t.” Therein lies the crux of the article. It’s not about justice for a grieving family. It’s not about government incompetency. It’s not about medical malpractice. It’s about the dangers of vaccines. We are to believe that this family is not seeking justice for their son’s death. They just want to get the word out that vaccines are dangerous. Buy a bridge, anyone?

This story holds about as much water as Noah’s colander. It is a poorly, fictionalized account of an event that cannot be proven nor is any attempt made to prove the so-called facts presented. We all like a good story, especially when it reinforces our established beliefs. That is what this is, a story to give anti-vaxxers something to cite when they’re doing their “research.” It is less believable than Wakefield’s MMR-causes-autism report.

If you will excuse me, I have to go park my car in the huge holes in this article. If it turns out that I’m just an old, hardhearted, skeptical curmudgeon and I’m completely wrong about all this, I’ll eat a pizza.

Bonus clip:

 

If all that wasn’t enough, you can watch me rant about this on the Youtubes.


Edited:
This story that predates the article in question by 2 months has eerily similar circumstances, but the setting is South Africa. Oddly, it was apparently reported by the same site, VacTruth.com as the current story. http://www.activistpost.com/2013/08/five-month-old-baby-dies-just-days.html and the original from vactruth.com http://vactruth.com/2013/08/17/baby-dies-after-8-vaccines/

Posted in Health, Skeptic | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Talent Overload

Posted by theBarefoot on February 22, 2015


I don’t know how it started, but I’ve over-indulged on The Voice, X Factor, and ____’s Got Talent, videos on Youtube this weekend. I’ve never watched these shows on TV. I’ve only seen clips online. I know that they are designed to reinforce our worship of celebrity, but I discovered something just the opposite.

If you watch more than 10 of these clips, you soon realize that there is nothing special about the so-called celebrities we worship. There are people in your town who have amazing voices. Some exponentially better than people who regularly sell platinum albums. There are waiters and shoe salesmen who go home every night and belt out incredible covers of pop songs while vacuuming the rug or washing dishes.

And it’s not just singing voices. There are people next to you at stop lights or standing beside you on the subway who have untapped talents that would floor you. You may even be one of those people. Just because you never get to audition for American Idol doesn’t make your talent any less valuable than last season’s winner.

What I would urge everyone to do is stop blindly believing the cult of personality we’ve been taught to follow. Start getting to know the people you see everyday. If you’re one of the lucky ones with a hidden talent, share it where and when you can. Sing at the bus stop. Juggle for your nieces and nephews. Give a picture you paint to a friend or neighbor. Put yourself out there and share. We all have something we do well. Don’t hide it. Do it well for people you meet everyday.

Somewhere along the way, while chasing the odd, little happy, you’ll catch moments of unbridled joy.

Posted in Advice, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Unsolicited and Unprofessional Relationship Advice for You

Posted by theBarefoot on February 4, 2015


Five tips (I hate the overused “Life Hacks” phrase, but life hacks, if you prefer) to make your relationships better and longer-lasting. I’m not a professional counselor and this is probably the worst advice you’ll ever hear, but, hey, you’ve tried everything else and Match.com has banned all four of your profiles. So if you were rejected from eHarmony for answering their preliminary question “What do you want in a woman?” with “MY PENIS!!!1!!”, then you might as well give this brief video a listen.

Unsolicited and Unprofessional Relationship Advice for You 

Posted in humor, Life, relationships, video, vlog | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Stranger’s Touch

Posted by theBarefoot on December 21, 2014


Getting dumped sucks. Getting dumped the week before Christmas is even worse, but it happens. It happened to a woman I’m very close to. She’s my youngest daughter. It breaks a father’s heart to see his little girl in pain, but it makes a father proud to see how maturely his little girl can handle such a sorry situation.

On December 19, 2014, after just recovering from a flu, she collected herself well enough to return some of the Christmas presents she no longer needed. Here’s what she said about her trip to Belk’s department store.

Tonight, I stopped by Belk to return some clothes I had bought for Now Ex-Boyfriend. When the guy asked me why I wanted to return them I said “I lost about 350lbs from the time I ordered them,” and started to cry. He looked confused, but a nearby saleswoman must have overheard and caught on because she came over and held my hand until my transaction was complete and I ran out of the store because I was so embarrassed. I should have told her thank you because that was such an amazingly nice thing to for a stranger. I wish I knew her names because I would totally write Belk customer service about it.

helping hands

Helping Hands

Dear Belk’s,

Please accept my gratitude for having such a lovely lady on staff in your Huntsville, Alabama store at Bridgestreet. I don’t know her name. I don’t even know what department she works in. I only know that her act of kindness made an impression. Though my daughter was embarrassed, she, too, was deeply touched by this small gesture of kindness. I hope your employee is found and recognized for her act. If she is or is not, I will pay it forward.

To all those hurting,
To all those in pain,
To all those in need,
To all those laughing,
To all those crying,
To all those joyous,
To all those at peace,
Merry Christmas to all those, everywhere.

Posted in Christmas, Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Our Schizophrenic Approach to Ebola and Drugs

Posted by theBarefoot on October 30, 2014


The Tiger in the Wind

The official government thinking on how to deal with Ebola is not to restrict travel or incarcerate (quarantine) people because, the logic goes, it will drive Ebola underground. People will hide their symptoms, not seek treatment, and end up spreading the disease further afield. Sounds perfectly reasonable and logical, but this is a 180 degree turn from the government’s approach to other, similar outbreaks.

Fear Ignorance Hate

Fear Ignorance Hate

Let’s take, for example, the outbreak of drug use which, by the way, hasn’t changed as a percentage of the population since war was declared by President Nixon in the 1970s. The government very much threatens incarceration and restricts travel, AKA arrests people, when it comes to drugs. What has this policy accomplished? The exact results the government warns will happen to Ebola if it is treated the same way. Drugs are driven underground into a black-market economy. Users who wish to kick their habits are afraid to seek treatment due to fear of being put in prison. People hide their drug-use symptoms and end up perpetuating drug use. This fear-based policy to illegal drugs is now spreading to legal, prescription drugs as this latter classification have now surpassed illegal drugs in causes of drug-related deaths.

I can’t say which is the proper approach to either problem, but I can say the government, AKA the people, need to be consistent in their treatment of problems with such parallels. We need more logic, consistency, reason, and analysis in our government, but that doesn’t sell votes or commercials near as well as fear, reactionism, paranoia, and schizophrenia. Why do we let this continue?

Because, we are herd animals who react to the rustle in the grass as if it was a tiger, not the wind. We are descended from a long line of cowardly idiots who always thought the rustle was a tiger. After all, if it was just the wind, running away didn’t hurt. If what they thought was the wind, turned out to be a tiger, well let’s just say, “Their genes didn’t make it to the next generation.”

Maybe it’s time we suppressed our primal, genetic urges to see a tiger in every gust of wind and started evolving to use reason and logic. Maybe. But I’m just a guy with a keyboard. What the hell do I know?

Posted in disease, drugs, govenment, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cognitive Dissonance in Law Enforcement

Posted by theBarefoot on October 9, 2014


There are two stories in the headlines over the past few weeks that are the textbook definition of cognitive dissonance – the ability to hold two conflicting opinions within the same mind. The stories both involve police and the CD-afflicted are police participating in online forums discussing the stories. You never see the two discussed simultaneously, which is why the people involved are able to so easily suspend logic.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance

The first story is the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson. The second story comes from Pennsylvania where Eric Frein allegedly shot two PA State Troopers, killing one. The stories follow similar events and have comparable levels of details available to the public. Those details aren’t important to this essay. What is important are the reactions and comments police officer make about the two cases.

The dichotomy of comments from police can generally be summed up with, “Cops are always right.” When the Ferguson shooting is discussed, the comments are almost always peppered with racism and/or classism, as in, “Why don’t those animals get jobs instead of protesting on my tax money?” (This is an ironic statement in itself since police are paid with taxes.) When the Pennsylvania case is discussed, it’s always with summary judgement, as in, “No trial needed. Put a bullet in his head.”

Both cases involve identical acts of violence against another human being, but because in Ferguson, the shooter wore blue, he is automatically given a pass, even given money, by cops and cop supporters. In Pennsylvania, the victim wore blue, so there is a three-county manhunt ongoing for almost a month and the shooter is prejudged by those wearing the blue. Both discussions are laced with prejudicial comments distorted through the blue glasses of law enforcers. Therein lies the cognitive dissonance. Take away the uniforms in both cases and neither would be worth discussing at all in the eyes of the police community because to them civilians are all basically cattle.

Typical comment on the Ferguson situation

Typical comment on the Ferguson situation

Odd, but typical comment on Frein shooting

Odd, but typical comment on Frein shooting

Not all police are fitted with the glowing halo of hero-dom they so enjoy bestowing on themselves. Not all opposition voices have criminal records or hate all police either. Some of us just have no use for cops.

Posted in crime, law, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Easy DIY Custom Fence Panels for Hiding Unsightly Areas Around Your Home

Posted by theBarefoot on October 7, 2014


Building a screen for unsightly things around your home is quite simple. You may want to hide the air conditioner unit, like I did, shrink your project to build a little screen for your trash cans. Whatever it is you want to hide, you can do it quickly and easily with some 2x4s and fence pickets.

This is a project you’ll finish in just a couple of hours. It all depends on if you are digging post holes and/or painting. The basics, at least how I did it, only took a couple of hours. I wanted to do mine as cheaply and quickly as possible. The cheap was done by using some metal fence posts I had on hand. The quickly was done by, well, it’s best I show you. The first video is the basic materials and construction. The second is some tinkering I did with fasteners to hold the fence panels to the metal posts. Enjoy and keep chasing the odd, little happy.



 

Posted in DIY, home improvement, home repair | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dear Unbridled, Free Market, Libertarian…Ebola. Your Argument Is Invalid.

Posted by theBarefoot on August 13, 2014


ebola virus

Eeeek! Ebola!

I like a lot of things about Libertarianism. In philosophical terms, it’s about as close as I can get to being political, but I have practical reservations. As an example, I give you Ebola. (Well, that didn’t sound right at all.) As an example, allow me to use Ebola. I could just as easily choose HIV-AIDS, but Ebola is on everyone’s minds right now. We’re all wondering why we don’t have a cure or vaccine for Ebola. Libertarians would tell us it’s because the free market hasn’t provided one and they would be correct. Here’s where the practical side of things really kicks Libertarianism in the butt. Sometimes, we can’t wait for the free market.

First, you have to realize what a horror Ebola is. I’m not going to post pictures or even draw them with words. Just know that Ebola is probably one of the top five worst ways to die. Until now, Ebola has only killed a few thousand people. I say, “only,” because in the free-market, grand-scheme of things, that’s no one. Also, these few thousand people were poor, very poor. They also live on the other side of the world from the free-market pharmaceutical companies in a mysterious land called Africa. In other words, Ebola hasn’t threatened the free-market and there is no profit in curing it.

It’s the same with HIV. When it first appeared, it was “the gay disease.” No one wanted to treat or cure it because if you didn’t want to catch it, you just didn’t have gay sex. Besides, curing gay people in the 1980s or 1990s would have been PR-suicide for a drug company. But then, straight people started getting HIV, but most of them were in, you guessed it, Africa. So no need to cure it, yet. Not until some very vocal, very fiscally well-off people got AIDS, did drug companies finally decide it was worth the investment to come up with something…anything…that might make them a profit…er…cure…er…prolong the life of an AIDS victim. And those drugs have done wonders to prolong the lives of paying AIDS patients in the Western world. Still there’s Africa, but fuck you, Africa. No expensive AIDS medicine for you and don’t hold your breath waiting on that HIV vaccine, either.

But back to Ebola. The latest outbreak is centered in West Africa. It’s the worst outbreak in history and it has the rest of the world taking notice. Now that there is a chance that it could spread to the Western world, people are asking, “Why is there no vaccine or cure for this horrible disease.” What they really mean is, “Why is there nothing to protect me and my family if that horrible virus leaves the shores of Africa.” Did I mention, fuck you, Africa? There is really very little chance that Ebola will become a world-wide pandemic, but can we wait? Libertarians tell us the market will find a cure when the market is threatened or there is profit in it, but can we wait?

No. When it comes to diseases, pandemics, and horrible deaths, we really can’t wait on the free market and we shouldn’t have to. This is one of those few things governments can do well. They can collect data, recognize threats, and allocate money to abate those threats. Sadly, this often comes in the form of guns for war, but in this case it is in the form of medical research and experiments. No for-profit company would dare spend the millions of dollars needed to develop a vaccine or cure for Ebola. They’d never sell enough to make their money back. Any sane person would hope there was no way they’d make their money back because that would involve an epidemic. If some company did develop a cure that coincidentally came on the heels of a huge outbreak of Ebola, there would be that tiny, dark part of everyone’s brain that would be thinking, “Did the company start the epidemic just to sell their drugs?” Shame on you for thinking a company would profit from the suffering of others…cough child labor, cough black lung, cough big tobacco, no seriously cough, big tobacco. A company just couldn’t sell enough of their cure to be profitable, especially to those poor African countries who are mired in Ebola because they’re poor, oh, and fuck you, Africa.

On the practical side of the house, sometimes we have to act altruistically even if it is for our own preservation.

Keep chasing the odd, little happy.

Posted in disease, medicine, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Pick and Choose

Posted by theBarefoot on August 5, 2014


Pick-and-Choose
It’s scary to be first to try something new. I wonder how many other liquids the first person who discovered cow’s milk was yummy went through before they got to milk. Eventually, someone will try something new and the rest of us can evaluate it. If it’s good, we can adopt it. If it’s bad, we should do everything in our collective power to avoid it. So why aren’t we doing that?

Why are we repeating horrible mistakes when others have already tried, failed, and moved on? Why did eleven states pass “drug test for welfare” laws when Florida, the guinea pig for that law, already proved the testing costs more than the savings recouped? I’m going to make a wild guess and say that in at least six of those eleven states, someone who owns a medical testing lab is very closely connected to the state government, if not in it. So that’s a big, “No!” What is working?

Tiny Houses
Austin, Texas and Madison, Wisconsin are both building tiny houses for the homeless. A tiny house is about 100 ft2 of just sleeping space. If you’re lucky, it has a toilet, sink, and maybe a small cooker. But these tiny living spaces are making a huge difference. Obviously, they’re saving lives from exposure to the elements, but they’re also giving a small piece of dignity to the lives of the disenfranchised. Many of these homeless are military veterans. If it helps, think of these shelters as pay-back for their service. The dignity these dwellings instill is translating to jobs and permanent housing for many who take advantage of the program. It also benefits the city because the construction is planned. “Hobo camps” and shanties are disappearing.

Whole Apartments
In a proactive piece of government, Salt Lake City, Utah ran the numbers for what the homeless were costing the city. Between emergency room visits and other tax-paid services, it was estimate each homeless person cost over $16,000/year. After crunching a few more numbers, Salt Lake City calculated they could give each homeless person an apartment and a social worker for a little over $11,000/year. Homelessness in SLC has dropped 74% and will be eliminated in 2015 if the trend continues.

Cameras
Specifically, body cameras for the police. After the police in Rialto, California started wearing cameras on their uniforms, complaints fell by 88%. Excessive force reports dropped 60%. After any encounter, the video is upload for evidence or analysis. This is an amazingly successful experiment. It helps police gather evidence and protects citizens’ rights.

Protecting the 4th Amendment
The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled as of August 5, 2014, police in Massachusetts can no longer use the old “I smell marijuana” chestnut as probable cause to search a vehicle. It’s been common knowledge that police often used that excuse to search a car when the owner wouldn’t consent to their search requests. It’s common knowledge that it was an often abused excuse. Yes, cops were lying! I know! Shocking, isn’t it? In these times where we are surrendering more of our liberties for a security circus of empty tents, this ruling gives us hope that the pendulum may have reached its maximum height and is swinging back toward liberty.

Pick and Choose
Now that someone has taken the plunge, it’s time other cities and states start picking the best ideas and implementing them, too. We could wipe-out homelessness nation-wide by 2025. We could reduce police abuses and return policing to the honorable profession it used to be. We can’t think of these ideas as giving people something for nothing. We can’t think of them as taking advantage of the public coffers. We need to see that these are investments in people and communities. They give the homeless dignity which leads to pride which leads to employment which leads to permanent not-homelessness. They give police a pause to think about cracking a head and costing the city thousands of dollars in law suits. The community gets something for these investments. We need to spread these good ideas. Go to your next city council meeting and ask them why your city isn’t building tiny houses or procuring body cameras for the police. Go on! Get going!

Reference links
Mass Supreme Court Ruling
Tiny Houses
Salt Lake City Homeless
Body Cameras for Cops

Posted in Activism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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